Veto session may not be enough for tough issues; later session days considered

Posted: Nov. 5, 2013 9:40 am Updated: Nov. 26, 2013 10:15 am

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Big decisions that Illinois lawmakers pushed back to this week's veto session might just be pushed back again.

Sen. John Sullivan heard early this week that there's a chance the Legislature will be called back into session after Thanksgiving so that some complex issues can be worked out during the next few weeks.

"I think that could be what happens with ADM and pension reform," the Rushville Democrat said.

ADM, known more formally as the agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland, is seeking $24 million in state incentives to keep its global headquarters in Illinois. While there is strong support for keeping ADM's top executives in the state, there are several other businesses seeking incentives, and getting votes for a combination of bills could become a problem.

Sullivan has heard frequent comments in the General Assembly that "this piecemeal approach just isn't working" when it comes to business incentives. Lawmakers have been talking about the need to set up some consistency in dealing with how the state handles business tax incentives and other perks.

"There are some of us, we talk about it a lot. We'd love to make it happen," Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican told the Associated Press. "It's not going to happen in the next two weeks, I can tell you that, but it does need to happen."

There will be some pressure to approve at least the ADM package. The international agriculture and food company has long been headquartered in Decatur. Officials announced weeks ago that they plan to move about 100 of their top executives to a city served by a world-class airport. Chicago is in the mix, but the company is seeking incentives for keeping those high-dollar jobs in the state.

State Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, last week added an amendment requiring that the company create more jobs in Decatur. The company supports that proposal.

Another business incentive is being sought on behalf of the company that emerges from the soon-to-be-completed merger of OfficeMax Inc. and Office Depot Inc., if it chooses Illinois as it headquarters rather than Florida.

Zurich North America insurance wants a payroll tax break in exchange for relocating its Schaumburg offices to another location in Schaumburg. The company would retain 1,000 jobs, create at least 250 more and make capital investments of at least $128 million.

Univar, a chemical distribution company based in Redmond, Wash., is seeking incentives worth $5 million to move its headquarters to Downers Grove. Univar would keep 100 jobs at its two current Illinois locations and add at least 69 jobs.

Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, is pushing incentives legislation for High Voltage Software, a video-game maker in his district. The bill would give the company tax credits it says it needs to compete with mainly Canadian competitors.

Even if all those business incentives could be worked out this week, Gov. Pat Quinn said he would veto the ADM deal unless there is a breakthrough on the state pension crisis.

Sullivan said there has been progress on pension reform in the Illinois Senate. He's not certain how things stand in the House.

"Everybody's in a holding pattern for the moment" while actuarial information is calculated on pension proposals, Sullivan said.

Illinois has a pension funds shortfall of nearly $100 billion. Several pieces of legislation have been discussed that would either lower the annual cost of living allowances, reduce or eliminate some health care for retirees, raise retirement ages or change employee contributions.

A 10-member joint committee has been meeting since June to seek a compromise bill that can win approval in both the House and Senate. That panel is deadlocked, without an agreed plan at this time.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, said that pension reform may have to wait until lawmakers see how much the different proposals would save over time. That may take weeks to calculate.

House members also are expected to hear from proponents of same-sex marriage. The Senate had passed a bill earlier.

Gun penalties also are being debated in the Statehouse. Gun rights supporters, including the National Rifle Association, are willing to see tougher penalties on those who use guns illegally. However, they oppose blanket sentencing for all first-time offenders, which could snare people with concealed carry licenses who run afoul of a complex system of rules and restrictions.

The Associated Press provided information for this story.